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I rebel. Against the boring triangle sandwich, mostly eaten above a keyboard, barely noticed, just because it’s noon, mechanically consumed. I demand colours and taste and a little moment of happiness. There may not be time to have a real break, it might have to fit within 20 mins. But hey. It does not take much to transform the corner of a desk. Bring a nice fabric napkin, a bowl with designer graphic. And a lovely, inspiring salad with interesting ingredients, not just three leaves and two cherry tomatoes.
How about trying the Marks & Spencer collection? I am a huge fan of their Crayfish, Mango & Coconut Rice salad, a nice exotic mix, juicy mango, peppery rocket, tender crayfish and a superb coconut-chilli sauce that gives it just the perfect kick. For two minutes, you will not care whether that phone rings or not. Bonus points: it’s soooo good but only 275 calories!
Or how about the super wholefood salad? Cheerful green tints (edamame, borlotti and cannellini beans, green lentils, broccoli) on a bed of nutty quinoa, creamy feta, raisins and pomegranate pearls for a touch of sweetness. Barely the need for a dressing really, but ah, pure indulgence with lemon and mint. Rich in proteins and well balanced in carbs, it’s the ideal lunch to save energy for the afternoon and leave you satisfied enough not to fall for a chocolate bar around 4pm.
Have a look in store. It makes such a nice difference to just a sandwich and much better for your too. There is also the Chicken and Pistachio Koftas with Couscous Salsa… Asian spiced chicken on a bed of noodles, with a creamy coconut and lime dressing… Tender chicken with smoky beans, tomato salsa and sour cream… All at only £3.50!
Ah, those recipes promising “Prep time: 20min”… but forgetting to mention that the ingredients should already be in front of you, weighed, ready to be chopped or thrown in a pan. That no, contrary to what you thought, you only have balsamic vinegar and not the white wine one required but hey, cross your fingers and take a chance. And, ah, didn’t the soy sauce live on that shelf last time you looked? From 20min, you have skipped to 45 and forgotten that this was supposed to be soothing.
Gousto is here to make your life easier. This special gourmet box will take care of almost everything. Recipes? Just choose 2 out of the 10 mouthwatering ones online. Shopping? Leave it to them. They will source organic fruit and veg, meat from fantastic farms. Packing and preparation? Impeccable. So well refrigerated that even picking it up the following morning having missed my delivery, the freezer packs still had ice! Each ingredient has been carefully weighed, down to the garlic and sauces so that you can jump right in. We loved the touch of humour on the labels too: Small bag, big taste… Thyme to cook! Allspice it up!
The idea? No waste. Of food, nor time or energy. It’s all there, in front of you, just pick and use. Almost no thinking involved! The ingredients are listed for 2 and 4 people (depending on which box you chose but also practical next time you have friends around). Instructions are super clear, easy to follow, each stage illustrated to reassure that you are on the right track. There is no way, even for someone as easily distracted as me to get it wrong.
We tried the Jerk chicken with cinnamon rice and the Roast artichoke with cranberry-orange bulgar. Instinctively, this would have been out of my comfort zone to try on my own but that is the whole point of Gousto. To take you on a different culinary adventure, a healthy one too. Put the fun back into cooking by taking the small frustations out. But also to give you extra confidence, proving you can do restaurant-quality food at home. And it is, indeed, very wow. It does not take huge skills to make it look as on the picture. The food is supercalifragidelicious. That crispy chicken, a sweet but spicy note, fragrant rice are simply unforgettable. When 11.00 comes and I start to feel hungry, this is the dish that comes first to my mind. I cannot think of going back to “normal” bulgar: the orange touch, the dried cranberry making it so luxurious in a few single gestures, very Persian like, almost jewelled. And how come roasted artichoke with only a little olive oil and pumpkin seeds never came my way before? Such a perfect lunch pack treat!
You will make these recipes again. It’s easy to separate the vegetables, the sauce to give a twist to other dishes. The instructions stay rather clearly in mind, making it instinctive to recreate them. It will not take you long to go back to the website and check the new menus. Just for the love of being surprised. And someone else gets to do the shopping and carry it right to your door. That feels so good.
Little Green Acorn. Love at first sight.
I have always loved vintage holiday posters. Stirs a little nostalgia in me. That summer feeling, jumping on a train. Soft drawings rather than pictures, allowing you to drift away. Touching slogans, singing still in your memory years and years later. I found that exact charm in their tea towel collection, inspired by the region: New Forest, Milford on Sea (The place to be), Lymington, Life by the sea (is the life for me). Unfolding He smiles, she smiles on the seashore, I suddenly felt like jumping in the car to the seaside, just to walk barefoot on the sand, fill my pockets with shells at Camber Sands or at Mawgan Porth.
To me… this is more like a fabric postcard. I can sit it front of it and picture myself there. It brings back all kinds of memories, entire days of freedom. Running towards seagulls to make them scatter, adventures as a child. It’s like a little key to happiness, perfect blue sky included. Such a lovely present to give – you almost want to get it framed!
My friends, it’s almost Pancake day. Don’t you love it? It seems we forget this treat most of the year. It’s suddenly such a feast! Here are our favourite 10 London ideas to enjoy Shrove Tuesday on March 4th. On a budget? There will be free pancakes at Lowndes (between 08.30 and 10.00 by quoting LBK Crepe), at Shoreditch thanks to Golden Syrup (11.00-15.00) and at Dirty Dicks (between 12.00 and 14.00). Any other tips? Do leave the details in the comments below!
1. My favourite pub in Old Spitalfields Market, The Water Poet, will propose on that day booze infused pancakes, savoury as well as sweet ones: Wild mushroom & spinach pancakes, with Prosecco & Ragstone goat cheese velouté…Pernod infused South Coast lobster tail pancakes, topped with tomato & saffron soft herb crème fraiche… Apricot & almond ‘cannoli style’ pancakes, rolled in cinnamon sugar & served with amaretto cream…
2. Take the Breakfast Club challenge. If you succeed to eat 12 pancakes in 15 minutes, the bill is on them.
4. A chocoholic special. Scoop Gelato will have no less than 8 different chocolate ice cream creations on the menu to top their pancakes. Trust me, they are to die for.
5. Cheers! The Strip Bar & Steak has invented a liquid version of the American pancake, infusing The Griffin cocktail with it. And with amaretto, maple syrup, citrus.
6. Don’t forget the traditional pancake races. MPs and Lords will be running at Westminster. Then there’s the Spitalfields one (often lots of disguises)… and Bankside (which will be in the Borough Market, quite something) and also the Greenwich one. The profits all go to good causes.
7. Are you more on the Canary Wharf side? Gastropub The Gun Docklands will tempt you with a Hog roast pancake; apple, watercress, smoked paprika version. Quick, get a fork.
8. Pure decadence at Hix Mayfair. Dorset Blue lobster pancake with steamed coastal greens? Devilled Lamb’s kidneys with hedgerow garlic on boxty pancake? Blood orange pancakes with Neal’s Yard Dairy crème fraiche?
9. Aqua Shard will celebrate pancakes all week long. We can’t resist the idea of a corn pancake with goat’s cheese and rosemary cream for breakfast, can you?
10. Stop at Shutterberg after work for a Caribbean Mardi Gras. Pancakes and rum cocktails, hooray! From 18.30.
Forget supermarket tortilla chips. Manomasa – now this is something else. Lighter, so much more refined, crunchier, a lot more luxurious in taste. The flour is made from popped corn to add that crisp airiness. Inspired by street food, the people’s food, it had to be bursting with flavours. Tip your hat to them – they did exactly that.
We loved… their creativity. Sea salt and cracked black pepper, a nice twist on a classic with linen, poppy, caraway and sunflower seeds for that extra crispiness that gets you so hooked and such a lovely chargrilled note. White cheddar made with white corn, a refreshing cilantro touch, the nuttiness of golden linseed. Chipotle and lime, superb spiciness that stays a while on the tip of your tongue, red bell pepper and guajillo chilli for a singing sweetness, pumpkin seeds for the perfect crunch-crunch-crunch sound.
The shapes have also been well thought out for dipping. Hexagonal, to pile up high… Triangular, ideal for salsa… Oval, to scoop as much as you can, better for creamier textures…
Needless to say – they are fantastic on their own. There isn’t really any need to add anything to them. But… well, we couldn’t resist experimenting anyway. They call for a tortilla crips party! The chipotle & lime are wonderful grilled with lots of cheese and sour cream… Do try the Sea salt and cracked black pepper with a home made with a mint-pea-parmesan dip (just blend 6 mint leaves, 2 handfuls of fresh peas, 200ml single cream or Greek yoghurt, a spoonful of grated parmesan). Or make gourmet bites to wow your friends. Avocado, fried quail eggs with their silky golden yolk contrasting with the crumbliness, a drop of sweet chutney (a pear and basalmic one on the picture). Pancetta, crumbled goat’s cheese, pink peppercorn. I’m sure chorizo would work well too. Wish I had some right now to see how well it matches!
Pssst… Crumbs left at the bottom of the bag? Sprinkle them on a soup or a salad before serving. Use them to make the base of an unusual savoury cheesecake. Or why not try some Mexican cuisine for the occasion : chilaquiles and migas recipes use tortillas as ingredients…
A trip with our kids always starts with a book on the destination. Such a great way to get them involved, to start discovering a new culture, to let the dream start. Once there, everything makes sense. They look for details seen in the pages, they project the characters onto the landscape, the street scenes. The story, the illustrations stay constantly in their mind, making them so much more engaged, little pebbles on a journey.
Jeu de piste à Londres, written and illustrated by Nathalie Infante, was such a lovely story to read with the children on our train to London, revising the classics they already know, adding more details along the way. If your little ones are learning French, give this one a try, it’s ever so sweet. Moussy, Maëlys and the Fluette sisters are mice-friends, on their way to dance a ballet at the Royal Opera. They’d love to visit the capital too but their teacher is set on work first. Ah - but he gets kidnapped… Vieille Souris Sage will help our little mice to find him, going from one riddle to another all around London. There will be horseguards, double deckers, umbrellas at James Smith, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, afternoon tea and so much more. Refreshing, adorable, a sense of humour and rhymes that stay well printed on your mind.
The book is part of the Editions Marie-Louise’s collection, a tiny publishing house founded in 2007 and sheltered beneath Parisian roofs. There are 18 titles for children to discover - books and Rollstories… Thanks to them, we have one Jeu de piste à Londres book for you to win! Just leave a message in the comments below. We will select one lucky winner randomly on March 7th at noon.
I’m lucky. In a way, I have been an expat most of my life. My father was a doctor in the army, I followed my parents to Africa and French Polynesia as a child. And this left me the taste for discovering something new everyday, pushing the boundaries, being spontaneous. Life is for living as they say. You will have so much time to spend on a comfortable armchair when you are old and tired. There is so much to be amazed by right now. Often, not so far from you.
After uni, I naturally wanted to live abroad. Being constantly between two cultures is like having the best of both worlds, you see. My studies lead me to the UK where I have stayed ever since, alternating with city breaks here and there, always eager to see more of the world. Looking back… here are a few tips I wish I had known at the time. Always worth doing some research before packing your suitcases!
Opening a bank account: Check what you need beforehand, especially if you are throwing yourself into a real adventure, planning to find a job “when you are there”. Most banks will ask you for an address to open an account. Logical. Ah! But some agencies will ask you for your bank account details before you can rent a place… If you already know someone on the city you are moving too, ask them whether they can refer you to their bank. Your company can too. It helps. Your own bank might have branches or agreements there.
Don’t forget your taxes: Check how the local system works. In the UK they are taken from your salary on a monthly basis. In France, you pay your taxes in one go, once a year so you have to put the money aside every month. Yes, quite a gap!
Health system: Ask around. In some cases, it is worse continuing to pay for the health system in your country too. Given the waiting time and costs of dental care in the UK… it actually proves quicker and not more expensive for me to have it done in Paris. If you are a parent, enquire about the follow-up for kids straight away. In the UK, antibiotics, etc. are free for children. Such a reassuring thought when you have little ones.
Renting: Again, do your homework. Get in contact with real estate agents, see what is usually included in rentals. I came over bringing fridge / cooker / washing machine… as you would moving from one rented place to another in France… only to discover it was almost always included here. And not knowing what to do with them: too expensive to send back to France, difficult to sell as they did not have the UK plug. Thank God for garden sheds. Not sure what I would have done living in a flat!
Education: 3 choices here. International school: if there is one around, if you can apply in time, if there is space available and if you can afford it. Local school: if your child already speaks the language, although I have seen cases of children learning as they go along. It wasn’t easy but if you have supportive teachers, it might work. In the UK, the school will depend on your postcode so best talk to your real estate agent beforehand, google for reports on the school, ask the neighbours. There is another possibility, of course, home schooling if one of you is not working.
Driving license: Some countries will ask you to retake the test if you stay longer than 6 months. If your parking skills are as bad as mine and you do not master the local language, better to know that beforehand.
Talk, talk, talk: I arrived in the UK with a 3 year-degree in English. Yep. Classical literature English. I learnt more vocabulary in a month here than in a year at uni. Talk. To anyone. From the cashier to the neighbour. I did not say it was easy, you will feel self-conscious, you will block on words. But people always love foreigners making the effort, showing a real interest, wanting to know about the country. Go to the local pub and talk to complete strangers. Best way to improve your language skills, great way to make friends… and to get great tips! From the best plumber to the best Indian restaurant around. Expats often tend to stay with people of their own nationality when they arrive: it’s instinctive and comforting. But definitely not why you moved over.
Make the most of your nationality: Being a froggie, I’m always reminded of the French stereotypes. From our love for food, our gesturing madly, our going on strike, our thick accent when speaking English, never getting that th sound right.. Trust me, I have heard it all. You know what works best? Using it first with a lovely sense of humour. Make them laugh a little. “Oh, you know us French…”. You can work on widening their knowledge of your country later. But just getting people to smile this way will open many doors. Very often, it is not meant in a critical way at all, it’s just the only thing they may know about your culture. Just remember – sports is a dangerous subject. I once supported France, who were winning, in a pub full of losing Englishmen. Ahum.
Trust the bloggers: Google is your friend. Try and find bloggers in the area you are moving to, expats or locals alike. They will give you a direct insight and are most likely to answer your questions. It may sound obvious but… ask nicely. You wouldn’t imagine the number of emails I have had without a hi, please, could you… demanding answers as if I were a Tourism Office.
Start a blog straight away: Because life takes over quickly. Because it is a better mass communication tool than Facebook, forcing you to be more personal, to write more than just a 2 line status. Because it is such a lovely diary of your journey. But also because there is living abroad… and going back to friends and family who haven’t moved, haven’t experienced this new life, some of them probably do not travel much either. Holidaying and living in a country are two completely different things. And so… going back, there can be a gap. Write about your experiences, your feelings, the joys and challenges as you go along. They cannot guess what it is like for you but that will help. And down the line… you will be helping future expats too…
If you are considering moving abroad and would like more tips from other expats, benefitting from their own trial-and-error experience… check out the HiFX Expat Page.
Time Out had crowned Scoop Best Ice Cream in London. No less. Top 5 star rating and all, praising the quality, totally melting for these gelati. Spring is back, there was a little sunshine, we stopped by, intrigued and in need of something sweet. Oh, to be welcomed by the scent of warm waffles and fresh coffee, what a nice introduction! A quick look at the winter selection and my mouth was already watering: the ice cream looked so supple, so light, I could already feel it melting on my tongue. Everything is prepared on site, explained the founder, Matteo Pantani. His eyes sparkle when he talks about the ingredients, first class all the way: the best vanilla possible, organic eggs and cinnamon, Grand Cru single origin cocoas, almonds from Piedmont. No colouring nor fake flavours here! Each year, he surprises scoop lovers with events and ideas. Ice cream cookie sandwiches. Chocolate popsicles. Cocktail-sorbets (champagne, mojito, cosmopolitan)… He was the very first one, as early as 2008, to try molecular gelato, using liquid nitrogen, giving the parlour a Harry Potter atmosphere. All the more reasons to like his Facebook page and be the first to know about his new creations.
Being chocoholics, we indulge in the 2 chocolate treats available that day. The Cioccolato Fondente offers a beautiful creaminess, enveloping the palate, gorgeous with the Sicilian pistachio gelato. Kids (or cheerful adults like me) will be easily seduced by the hundreds-and-thousands cone – adding a festive touch, makes you feel on holiday. Do try the Cioccolato Extra Fondente, a more intense sorbet (indeed, dairy free), such a long, strong bodied note. Takes me instantly back to that special hot chocolate served at a palazzo in Turin.
Every fusion is possible here. A waffle, a meringue, a cake with your gelato? Or would you prefer it as a milkshake? And of course, it’s Shrove Tuesday next week. There will be a special chocolate selection to be served on pancakes, with no less than 8 superb choices. They all look so fantastic I cannot make up my mind. I think I will need three at least! Origins will go from Ghana to Venezuela via Sao Tome – a cacao tour of the world. No, there is no way you can resist this…
Go on. There are 3 delicious addresses in London to enjoy. Ice cream on a waffle or pancake on a chilly day is guaranteed to make you feel better.
40 Short’s Gardens
WC2H 9AB London
53 Brewer Street
W1F 9UJ London
St George’s day for England. St Andrew’s day for Scotland. St Patrick’s day for Ireland. For now, it’s time to celebrate St David’s day, the Green Man with our Welsh friends. So for Saturday, go and experience all things Welsh at the Cecil Sharp House – from music to literature via ales and cider. Cheerfulness guaranteed. As usual, scroll down for our favourite 10 ideas to enjoy London this weekend.
1. On Friday, don’t forget the V&A late evening and its super cool free workshops. This time, artists from Hackney Wick will share their universe with you.
2. The most beautiful art collections are private, museums being only a low percentage. On Friday and Saturday, Open Art gives you an opportunity to see a few gems rarely shown to the public.
3. Book yourself a glamorous time with this retro-revival make-up workshop on Carnaby Street on Friday evening.
4. For once, a beauty surprise-deal. Throughout March, Debenhams will have a free Benefit brow bar.
5. Divine chocolate has opened a pop-up shop on Monmouth street. Free coffee and chocolate bar if you stop by, until March 9th.
6. On a budget? Don’t buy – exchange! The fantastic pub The Water Poet, close to the Old Spitalfields Market, will have a swap shop on Saturday.
7. Olympia grand hall becomes a giant contemporary art gallery for the week-end, Art 14.
8. You’re a parent. Given the price of a babysitter for the night, you haven’t gone dancing for ages. Well, Big Fish Little Fish offers a compromise, a family rave time. There will be a DJ, the kids can dress up and nobody will mind if you go crazy on the dance floor. Your little ones probably will think you are super cool indeed. Sunday, 2 – 4:30pm.
9. How about a narrowboat tour on a London canal? You can bring your own picnic.
10. The famous Barbican weekender is back. And it will be geek themed. Fancy climbing into a computer? Discovering yourself as an hologram? Yes? Then it’s for you.
♪♫♪♫ Click to locate the events ♪♫♪♫
Remember JUST EAT, this super cool website that lists the take away close to where you live, by proximity, by theme, even by opening hours? Once you’ve tried it, it makes its way to your favourites immediately, such a life saver. The menus are online (no need to keep dozens of outdated leaflets in the kitchen drawer), as well as the prices. And you can pre-order dinner if the restaurant is not open yet. Efficient. In my world, anything that saves time and energy is worth a round of applause.
Did you know there is an award for take-aways too? Tried and Tasted, now running for the third year, encourages the quality of both food and service for London. Out of the 3800 London restaurants listed on the website (they have 20,000 in the UK), divided among the 6 areas of the capital, JUST EAT selected the best rated addresses. The ones that you, me, anyone loving an easy but delicious treat brought to their doorstep, have highly recommended.
Have a look. We all have a local we cherish, that makes our mouth water in advance. Now is your turn to give something back. Have a look – is it on the list? Yes? How about giving them a little push and vote for them? It’s easy, only takes a second, exactly 3 clicks in total. It’s a nice way of saying thank you and to support your community too. You have until March 31st to send this virtual smile. It does matter.
The winners will be crowned ‘Best Chinese in North London’ or ‘Best Italian in South West London’ and so on. Go on. Get that mouse clicking.
And who knows? You might just win one of these 25: JUST EAT branded onesies, iPad Mini 16GB, £25 JUST EAT voucher, Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy Tablet.